21
Apr

Orientation & Training: How To Survive Information Overload 

Orientation for foreign service specialists is three weeks of information overload.  It is meant to introduce us to the culture of the Department of State (DoS) and Foreign Service (FS), but we also have tons of paperwork, long lectures, security briefings to increase paranoia, information on how not to piss off ambassadors, and if we are lucky, the occasional bathroom break and a couple times even a lunch break.  We have homework, we have writing exercises, and we have limited time to do any of the homework or online lessons during the working day.  Which is manageable if you are just hopping on the FSI shuttle to Oakwood but really annoying if you are one of the local hires (aka those who get screwed).  My commute (via MARC train and then Metro, then shuttle bus) ranges from 1.5 to 2 hours EACH WAY.  Needless to say, I have been exhausted.  Add to that the fact that my weekends have also been packed with various social commitments and required functions, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.  

I have been though the first week of my specialization training, it is a total of three weeks.  Again, a lot more information but the day is shorter:  9 to 4 instead of 8 to 5.  We get actual breaks and class time to work on assignments.  It is so much better but I still have the nasty commute.  

With all this, I haven’t had time to update and honestly no one would really be too interested in details of orientation.  And no one wants to hear about how I learned how to use the system to do up cables or crap like that.  

So yesterday I had planned to do NOTHING.  Except watch Doctor Who at 8pm of course.  And I did NOTHING.  I was in jammies ALL day, I took a long nap, I rested, I pretty much turned my brain off.  I did some laundry and sorted some more stuff to take to Sudan.  That was it.  Today I still feel like I have a major energy deficit so I’m going to chill most of today too.  It is long overdue and desperately needed for my sanity and health.

That said, I do hope to gather up the energy to talk about my FLAG DAY!  So stay tuned.

20
Mar

mad-untempered-schism:


So… David Tennant married Georgia Moffett (the tenth Doctor’s daughter in Series 4, Episode 6 ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’, who is Peter Davison’s daughter (fifth Doctor), and who used to go to school with Colin Baker’s (sixth Doctor) daughter. Then Georgia and David had a daughter.

So, the Doctor’s daughter played the Doctor’s daughter in ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’, was friends with the Doctor’s daughter and then had the Doctor’s daughter..

Mindf**k or what?

(via captainjackssingalongblog)

20
Mar
20
Mar
obeythedaleks:

Sorry I haven’t been on in soooo long! my English teacher assigns a million things and I’m soooo stressed right now 😔😨😭 Thank you for following us even though I barely post! So here’s a David Tennant post with a Dalek!!! #doctorwho #dalek #davidtennant #bbc #lookinsnazzy #nicesuit ☀Chrissy by takemetobadwolfbay http://instagr.am/p/XENodIM9Rd/

obeythedaleks:

Sorry I haven’t been on in soooo long! my English teacher assigns a million things and I’m soooo stressed right now 😔😨😭 Thank you for following us even though I barely post! So here’s a David Tennant post with a Dalek!!! #doctorwho #dalek #davidtennant #bbc #lookinsnazzy #nicesuit ☀Chrissy by takemetobadwolfbay http://instagr.am/p/XENodIM9Rd/

(via captainjackssingalongblog)

12
Mar

How to not suck at shopping at Ikea 

One of the fun parts about Foreign Service (well not really) is that in addition to housing, most posts also provide furniture.  It’s decent but not necessarily either 1) to your taste or 2) very attractive.  It’s part of the lifestyle though.  At some posts you can opt to have the FS furniture removed and bring your own, it’s not always the case though.  Occasionally you may serve a one year tour in DC, which usually means apartment living and furniture is not provided.  Your worldly goods are stored for you if you don’t take it with you.  

Keeping all that in mind, we have significantly downsized our belongings and are continuing to do so.  We have also sold our large, ornate, heavy, dark room-clogging furniture and replaced it with smaller, lighter (both physically and in color) stuff that will easily fit in small apartments/rooms.  Sure some locations have large houses but we feel that it is better to be prepared for the small and then cope with larger.  It’ll end up feeling more spacious anyway.  I get claustrophobic in rooms clogged with furniture and clutter. 

So, as we have sold off the big stuff, we used the money we made to replace it with smaller, lighter stuff.  Stuff that will easily fit in small rooms, easily disassembled and reassembled, etc.  We have made several trips to Ikea to do this.  The flat packaging means easy transport, even in a small vehicle.  We can easily measure, test out and examine the furniture and look at the different color/material options.  We can get ideas from the demo rooms.  Drake loves getting to go to the play area.  We can grab breakfast and/or lunch.  It’s easy to navigate if you know what you are doing.  If we know what we want we can check inventory ahead of time and find the warehouse location, thus saving time.  

I’ve found some things intriguing/annoying about the Ikea shopping experience though, usually related to other shoppers.  It is interesting to see how many families use a trip to Ikea as an outing for their entire extended family, I’m talking like 2-3 car loads of people.  Problem is, they all wander around like lost water buffalo, clogging the aisle as they walk slowly having to stop and look at EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM.  I also see large families that seem to think that every one of their six kids need a cart to push.  They’ll put one small item in each cart.  WHY?  And they move in an inverted V formation, again hogging the entire aisle.  In the store AND warehouse.  And most of the time the parents are completely oblivious to what their kids are doing, which is usually running around, climbing on towers of boxes, running in front of the impossible to control trolleys of other shoppers, etc.  Then you’ve got the people who can’t just go to the stock location and grab their items.  They have to park their cart in the middle of the aisle or on the opposite side of what they are looking at, while they stand in the area next to the cart, again blocking the entire damn aisle.  And as you leave, the busy loading area has a half dozen cars parked there unattended while the owner decides to go in for an ice cream and come out with an entire new living room.  In the meantime there are dozens of people waiting to get a spot there so they can load their furniture and go.  So here’s 7 simple rules for not being a douche when you go to Ikea.

7 Rules for Courteous Ikea Shopping
  1.  If you for some reason feel the need to bring your ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY don’t treat the aisle like it’s your own private promenade deck.  Fine, walk as slowly as you want, stopping every two feet to gaze in wonder at yet another piece of furniture, but don’t hog the entire aisle with your brood.
  2. Also if #1 applies to you, you do not need to get a shopping cart for every single one of your six kids to push with one item in each cart.  If you still feel that you MUST do this, form a single file line.  You are not a football team; other shoppers need to get through.
  3. Yes, you have to pick up the boxes of furniture yourself and assemble your furniture puzzle yourself at home.  Ikea staff will help you locate and load your boxes if you ask, but bitching about having to do it just means you are an idiot who apparently has minimal reading comprehension.  After all  you passed about 500 signs explaining this on your way to the warehouse.  Don’t be a dick to Ikea staff just because you feel you are too good to grab your own boxes
  4.  When picking up your furniture in the warehouse, remember you are not the only people in the store.  Therefore do not park your cart in the middle of the aisle while you stand slack jawed and gazing confusedly at the stacks of boxes. 
  5. Ikea furniture trolleys do not steer well. Be prepared.
  6. If #1 applies, please do not let your kids run wild all over the warehouse while you do #4.  Especially if you take into consideration #5.  If I run over your screeching banshee of a kid with my trolley full of heavy boxes while they are acting like they are on a playground and being completely ignored by you, it’s really not my fault.  Nor is it Ikea’s fault despite the crappy and difficult to control trolley. 
  7. DO NOT PARK IN THE GOD DAMN LOADING AREA AND THEN LEAVE YOUR CAR TO GO SHOPPING.  I don’t give a damn if you are just running in to get ice cream.  Don’t do this.  In the time you leave your damn car parked there to run in and get ice cream and decide to pick up several other things, I could have parked my vehicle, loaded it and left.  So could some of the other dozen people hanging around waiting while their friend/family member has to keep circling the loading area, waiting for a spot to open.
1
Mar
questionableadvice:

~ One Thousand Simple Soups, by Olive Green, 1907

Eating worms out of courtesy? Maybe I am not cut out for this whole diplomacy thing.

questionableadvice:

~ One Thousand Simple Soups, by Olive Green, 1907

Eating worms out of courtesy? Maybe I am not cut out for this whole diplomacy thing.

20
Feb

Under Pressure 

So you all know I love my slow cooker.  I’ve raved about it in blog posts, tweets and on Facebook. I’ve written haiku in honor of it.  Well the love affair has been pushed aside.  I bought a pressure cooker.

I’ve been hearing a bit about them, especially when I used to do jam and jelly canning but the image in my mind was always something like this:

image

Yeah, something that is so scary looking that you’d want an engineering degree to operate it.  Look at it!  You have to BOLT THE LID DOWN.  I was always afraid if I got one that the lid would blow off, boiling steam would engulf me, and I’d end up looking like the guys in that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark with the faces melting off.  I was so very wrong.

Modern pressure cookers have come a long way.  There are a myriad of safety features and they are much simpler.  And quite inexpensive.  You can even get an electronic version, although from research I have found that they apparently don’t work quite as well as the stove top version.  I decided that since I will be moving to a new country every couple years, a stove top version was the wisest choice so I don’t have to worry about it being compatible with different outlets and voltages and whatever the hell else I’ll have to deal with and yes I know I can get a transformer but been there done that, seen them burn out.

On impulse I grabbed one for $45 on my last trip to Ikea and it’s pretty simple:

image

Even comes with a nifty steaming insert.  For the entire long weekend I played with it and fell in love quickly.  I made homemade vegetable, chicken and beef stocks that were amazingly flavorful and took maybe an hour to prepare.  Last night I had a whole chicken with sides of potatoes, carrots, celery and fennel from fridge to table in less than an hour.  And let me tell you, when it comes to taste and flavor the pressure cooker wins over the slow cooker.  The meat is juicier and more tender.  Cheap cuts come out amazing (I made a beef soup out of the leftover beef and veggies from the beef stock…and there were some really cheap cuts in there that just melted in your mouth).  

I think my favorite stock was the vegetable stock.  I kind of threw together a rough version based on court bouillon recipes from the likes of Alton Brown and Julia Child and put my own spin on it.  So, water + white wine. Carrots, celery, onion, garlic, kale, fennel bulbs, sweet potato, and parsnips.  Greek oregano, tarragon, basil, sage, cumin, and a few dashes of herb & spice blends that my sister sent me from The Spice House.  It was AMAZING.  Let it cool and you can scrap off any fat from the top.

I am kicking myself for not getting a pressure cooker sooner.  My slow cooker is a fancy model that is also a rice cooker.  I don’t think it’ll be used for anything but rice anymore.  

15
Feb

Adventure Awaits - Part 2 

I received my official salary offer (quite good, way more than anticipated, looks like my education and experience have FINALLY paid off), signed off on all the initial paperwork (it’s the government, there will be tons more to come) and accepted the position.  I begin training at the end of March in the 129th Foreign Service Specialist class.  I won’t find out until the final week of orientation which country I’ll be going to, but as a wise man once said “There are no bad posts, only bad people.”  Your dream post can be another person’s nightmare post.  That cushy posting to Paris could end up a living hell if you end up with a bunch of jerks.  It’s the people you work with that make all the difference.  And of course if it sucks, at least you know it’s only for 2 years then you get to move on to a new place and a new adventure!